Dear Life Matters,
For the past five years I have made a resolution, a New Year’s resolution, to try and make a better relationship with my brother.
I try my best. I make nice get-togethers and do everything I can to avoid conflict, but he always manages to do some very hurtful things that spoil everything and I can’t keep my resolution, I’m hurt and I give up.
I really would like to have a better relationship with him. I don’t know what the problem is, I really don’t, but we can’t seem to come together. He just doesn’t seem to like me. I have no idea why. I can tell you that he’s pushed away a lot of his friends, but I’m not a friend, I’m his sister.
Our parents are really upset that we don’t get along and they are getting up there, they are in the winter of their life! I tell myself that, if for no other reason, we have to avoid conflict and get along for our parents’ sake.
So here I am, just having made one more New Year’s resolution that I know I’m probably not going to be able to keep because there are two of us and he will not let me keep it. It’ll be spoiled in no time and I cannot tell you how really discouraged I am.
Can you help me? Do you have any suggestions?
This is not just about a reoccurring resolution that you make, this is a mouthful.
We can start with the New Year’s resolutions, and then take it from there. If my information is correct, lots of people make them, but as few as roughly 8 percent actually keep them. So not keeping your New Year’s resolution is not something to fret over.
But if you are going to make them, then why not make one that is well thought out and is actually worthy of making because you have a real chance of keeping it?
Also, make it just for yourself. You cannot make a resolution for someone else; your resolution is yours and can only be made for you and by you. You can’t make one for someone else and expect it to work. Maybe you don’t realize it, but you have actually been making one for yourself and for your brother. He doesn’t keep it and you feel discouraged and hurt. And you actually blame him for your failure to keep your own.
My guess is that he doesn’t have the slightest clue that you have made this resolution for him and if he did he might tell you to stay on your own side of the street and to quit believing in magic.
You cannot change another person, whether it is by force or manipulation. Only those people who have a desire to change something about themselves can change whatever that might be.
So my first piece of advice is to stop with the resolutions! Make a new one that is just for you and is not dependent on someone else’s behavior and motivation.
Clearly you have a problem with your brother and from the way you make it sound he may have a problem of his own, in terms of getting along with others.
Unfortunately, you cannot change this either. The best you can hope for is to sit down with your brother and have an open, honest conversation about your relationship, your parents and whatever is coming between you. If you cannot come to an understanding that helps you to begin building up your relationship, maybe you can at least agree to do what is right and best for your parents. Perhaps your brother is a big enough person to agree to this and for your parents’ sake, get along with you around them and for them.
It definitely feels like you are really hurt from not having a close relationship with your brother. Were you close when you were younger? Is this a loss for you? Or is it a loss in the sense that you never were close and you wanted to be, but your hopes and dreams of a close sibling relationship just have not happened and maybe it’s not meant to be?
As you mention, you go out of your way to make a close relationship with your brother and yet it never works. I suggest that you stop trying so hard, start being yourself and, if possible, have a heart-to-heart talk with him.
And please, stop trying to change him! That will only make him resist you more.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or send your anonymous questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let me help you with your life matters, because it does!